LOTTERY SCAM WARNING
Beware of fake lottery scams
March 2020 Advisory: As the world navigates through unprecedented challenges, opportunists have come along to take advantage of economic upheaval caused by coronavirus. We have noticed a rise in reported lottery scam attempts and advise consumers to take extreme caution when contacted about a lottery or sweepstakes “prize” that they have “won.”
“You’ve won the lottery!” It’s something that many people want to hear. But most often, those words come through emails, social media and even letters from scammers who are trying to steal your money. The scammers use different company names, the names and logos of legitimate lotteries, and even our association’s logo to give their scam credibility, but they all operate in a similar manner.
We assure you NASPL and all real lotteries are not involved in these schemes. We have spoken with many people who have proceeded into these scams and ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars, but we have not talked with one person who actually ever received their prize. These are very well devised scams and probably involve a large team of criminals who are getting rich or financing terrorism at the expense of innocent people who can least afford to lose money.
The scams often target older people and have been known to wipe out victims’ retirement savings. More and more, however, scammers are taking to social media in order to reach audiences of all ages.
The scams take many forms and the scammers use many tricks. In most cases, the criminals e-mail, message through social media, or call to tell intended victims they have won a large prize, using the name of a major lottery or lottery game to sound official. Sometimes they even pretend to be a real lottery jackpot winner, who promises to share his or her wealth with others.
These scams all have one thing in common: They try to trick you into sending them money or personal information by claiming that you have won a large lottery prize.
If the person is fooled into thinking he or she has won a prize, the crooks usually try to get the person to transfer money for up-front “taxes” or “fees.” They may also try to get the victim to provide them with a bank account number, and they will then clean out that bank account. Another trick is to send the winner a bogus “check” and ask the winner to send money back to cover expenses. It is only after victims have sent their own money that they discover the check they received is counterfeit.
Here are some tips that can prevent you from being scammed:
- If someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played, be suspicious. You can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t buy a ticket.
- If you are in a jurisdiction that is outside the market area of the lottery or game mentioned as the source of the “prize,” then it is a scam. Real lotteries do not hold “international” sweepstakes, contests or awards for people who live outside their market area.
- If you have caller-ID on your phone, check the area code when someone calls to tell you you’ve won. If it is from a foreign country, that is a red flag. Also, be aware that some con artists use technology that allows them to disguise their area code: although it may look like they’re calling from your state, they could be anywhere in the world.
- Be suspicious if an e-mail contains misspellings or poor grammar, or if the person who called you uses poor English.
- If you are told that you need to keep your “win” confidential, be suspicious.
- No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won. If you have to pay a fee to collect your winnings, you haven’t won.
- Just because a real lottery or well-known lottery game is mentioned does not necessarily make it a real prize. Someone may be fraudulently using the lottery’s name without its permission or knowledge.
- Never give out personal information or send money unless you verify the company’s or solicitor’s legitimacy.
- Be suspicious of any offer that asks to have money sent by Western Union, MoneyGram, Gift Cards or other transfer methods. It is nearly impossible to track payments and recover funds sent to scammers.
- If they offer to wire the “winnings” directly into your bank account, do not give them your bank account information.
- If you are told that you can “verify” the prize by calling a certain number, that number may be part of the scam. Instead of calling it, you should look up the name of the lottery or organization on your own to find out its real contact information.
- If you think someone on the phone is trying to scam you, hang up immediately. If you engage them in conversation, your name and contact information could end up on a list that’s shared with other scammers.
Following is a list of websites for additional information on these and other scams.
(Keep any documents you may receive regarding your scam, including envelopes, letters and checks, in the event that you are contacted by an investigating agency.)
- Elder Fraud Website and Hotline: stopelderfraud.ovc.ojp.gov or by phone at1-833-372-8311
- Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at www.identitytheft.gov/?utm_source=takeaction or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.
- AARP Fraud Watch Network: www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/
- Fake Checks: www.fakechecks.org
- Fraud Aid: www.fraudaid.com
- You can report this fraud to a variety of authorities including your local police, and your state Attorneys General office. Follow the link for a listing for your state: www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php
The following agencies all have online forms to fill out to report this type of fraud:
- Federal Trade Commission: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0086-international-lottery-scams
- US Postal Service Inspections Office: www.uspis.gov/tips-prevention/financial-fraud/
- US Department of Justice - Consumer Protection: www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch
- US Senate – Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline: www.aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline
- Canadian Anti-Fraud organization: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
- International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network: www.icpen.org
- Western Union: www.westernunion.com/sites/us/consumer-protection/ConsumerProtection.page
We have come to realize that these schemes have been taking a low priority for these agencies since it is so difficult for them to catch and prosecute the individuals. They often work through fictitious addresses and use disposable cell phones that are difficult to trace. However, the more people that file complaints the more likely these organizations will take action. Right now, the best defense is to educate as many people as possible to let them know about these scams and how they work – and not to get involved.